The Nuts and Bolts of Living in Bali for a Month

Samadi Yoga Studio - Bali

When I first set foot in Ubud, Bali in 2012 I felt a surge of comfort—the sensation of coming home, even though I had never been here before. I get the same feeling with New York City—I call these my two “soul cities,” with Amsterdam a close third. These are places that feel like more of a homecoming than an adventure quest; the other people passing through feel like “my people” and the values and ethos at every level of the culture resonate deeply.

After my first two-day trip to Ubud, I knew I had to return even though it was halfway across the planet. On a bigger leap of faith, I spent a month living here in January 2013, and now I am here for a month’s stay again. It feels so re-energizing that I will do it every year if I can from now on—being here is healing, and a reminder of the heights of health and happiness I sometimes forget are possible.

TRANSPARENCY FOR POSSIBILITY

Many times when I tell people I will be living in Bali for the month of January they will say something like, “You’re so lucky! Enjoy!” There are many things in life I am very lucky to have, but travel is one that anyone can methodically work toward. At the end of the day, it is a question of money, time, desire and overcoming any fears about making the leap.

You know how I love making a good template and demystifying complexity— that’s what today’s post is about. I’m sure there have been a kazillion posts on how to live and travel to Southeast Asia. But for those of you who might resonate with my form of travel, count this as one more tool in your arsenal to help you plan your own trip someday. You can do something like this, on any scale, if and when you want to.

Number Crunching

Okay, time to get down and dirty with all the numbers.

But first, a giant caveat: I am not the world’s most frugal traveler! I am not a travel hacker or a backpacker. But neither am I a luxury-seeking spendthrift. I am a very middle-of-the-road traveler—I like to get somewhere, be comfortable, settle in, and find routines quickly. I like a nice room with Internet and amenities, and I like to eat delicious, healthy food, and take yoga classes every day. These are things I am willing to spend money on.

Conversion Rate:

  • 100,000 in Indonesian Rupiah is approximately $8 USD (calculator here).
  • It can be a bit of a confusing conversion at first! Feels like you’re playing with paper money, as taking out 1 million Rupiah from the ATM equals less than $100 USD.
  • As longtime expat Dan Andrews of Tropical MBA advised Elisa who I first came to visit here, “Subtract zeros until it makes sense.”

Basic Travel Costs—Flight:

The flight is the biggest shock and cost to swallow by far. I could have done this much better if I had travel hacked my way through it, but I knew if I waited to travel hack the trip, I would have never booked it at all. So, I swallowed hard and purchased the “normal” way. I also upgraded a bit on my trip back and did not optimize fully for cost—coming home is always a bit hard for me (emotionally and physically), so I paid a few hundred extra for Virgin Atlantic.

  • Flight from LAX to Denpasar, Bali (connecting through Taipei) via China Airways (~25 hours): $700
  • Flight from Denpasar to Singapore, where I’m delivering a training for Google before coming home: $80 on AirAsia (like Southwest)
  • Flight from Singapore to NYC (connecting through London), via Virgin Atlantic: $1,000
  • TOTAL AIRFARE: ~$1,800
  • Taxi from Denpasar to Ubud (1.5 hours): $30
  • Ubud is somewhat of a hippie-town in the jungle (not along the ocean) with a large emphasis on spirituality, organic food, meditation and movement. There are many beautiful beach towns across Bali, and some bigger cities like Seminyak that are great. The aussies all party in Kuta (Vegas of Indonesia) since it’s a 3-hour flight—not a place I spend much time if I can help it!

Note: to enter Indonesia, you have to show that you have an outbound flight booked. The default tourist visa is 30 days, but you can pay to extend. 

Basic Travel Costs—Hotel:

  • Hotel: $30/night with bulk discount for booking one month. Includes wifi, air conditioning, morning coffee and breakfast. I’m okay with paying a bit extra because it is next door to the yoga studio and the people who stay are quite friendly and interesting—I’ve kept in touch with many people I’ve met here in my various trips!
  • There are dozens, if not hundreds, of “homestays” in Bali where you can easily and comfortably stay for $15-$20 per night.
  • If you can rent out your place back at home, that can offset a major portion of these travel costs, otherwise it is a bit tricky to take a double-hit on rent.

Here’s a snapshot of the place I’m staying:

Ubud Aura, Bali

Food Cost Examples:

I eat in restaurants a lot (they have tons of organic, healthy cafes here)—so you could do this much cheaper by eating street food. Ubud is more expensive than other places in Bali because it has become quite a “farong” (foreigner) destination — particularly among the Eat, Pray, Love set! From what I typically order, here’s the breakdown:

  • Nasi Goreng (fried rice) with 2 chicken satay skewers: $2.50
  • Fruit smoothie or pressed juice: $2.50
  • Capuccino: $1.70
  • Big salad with ~10 toppings: $4.00
  • Full three-course meal: $20-$30
  • Fresh coconut (drink the coconut water, then scoop out the insides to eat): $1.20 (!!!)
  • I also brought a big bag of almonds and two boxes of Perfect Bars—those are great snack back-ups when I just want something clean and healthy without eating in a restaurant. 

Activities

  • I take yoga classes at Yoga Barn and Radiantly Alive; classes are ~$10 each but cheaper if you do a class pack
  • I took a half-day cooking class and market tour at Casa Luna (thanks mom!!) for $32
  • The Nahko concert I attended had a $15 cover charge
  • Attending talks, events, and meditation talks at a nearby gallery-theatre costs ~$8 each time
  • Massage (and facials): this is where it gets unreal . . . one hour is typically ~$12-$15!
  • The co-working space here, Hubud, charges monthly at around ~$50. They have great people, great amenities, coffee, a cafe, and boast the second-fastest internet on the island, second only to the government!
  • On a related note, I’ve been doing a few coaching calls each day via Skype—you can either call Skype-to-Skype for free, or pay a small amount (¢1/min) for Skype Credit to call someone’s phone directly, which is what I use to call family.
  • You can also hire a driver for the entire day to take you touring to the volcano, coffee plantation, and temples for ~$30
  • I’m a bit of a boring traveler (being a routine-lover and all) so I don’t do as many excursion-type activities . . . most people here rent scooters or motorbikes ($50 for the month) and go all over the place!

For specific hotels, restaurants, and attractions, check out the Google Doc for Bali and Chiang Mai Thailand that Elisa and I set-up a few years ago based also on recommendations from many others. 

Making it Happen

Once you figure out how to manage the flight costs, you can live very comfortably here for ~$50/day (including room and board), and this is not even the cheapest city in Southeast Asia by a long shot! That’s ~$1,500 for the month. A stretch, but nothing you can’t save up for little-by-little.

The Time Factor

Of course, the major issue I haven’t addressed in this post is taking the time off. My strong feeling is that a trip like this benefits from at least two weeks, ideally three or four. Even if you’re working full-time, many people have earned at least 2-3 weeks of vacation time. How it unfolded for me:

  • The first week I spent skidding in on blinking “red battery” from a year of hard work in the lovable chaotic jungle of New York City
  • By the second week I was starting to feel human and restored again, but by no means ready to leave
  • By week 3 I was in a groove with creative ideas flowing fast and furious
  • By week 4 (the home stretch), I feel fully recharged and grateful to have had time to settle in before gearing up to return after my trip to Singapore

So . . . what else would you want to know before taking a big trip? If there’s anything I can answer, I will . . . or perhaps others can help chime-in in the comments too!

Two related posts to help give you an extra nudge if you need it:

Now for the most important question: where do you want to travel next?

When? And for how long? Whatever it is, write it down and start crunching some numbers . . . you might find out it is not as intimidating or impossible as you might think. And one day soon I’ll probably make a template for travel brainstorming. 🙂

  • This is just a wonderful post Jenny, thank you for sharing it! I lived in Mongolia for four years, three with the Peace Corps, and in addition to meeting the love of my life I also learned a lot about myself and how and where I want to live.

    I love how you summarized the costs in a very simple way and how you are prioritizing what’s important to you, like yoga every day and eating healthy. What a wonderful example.

    I hope you enjoy your flight home! We are all very proud of you and excited about this year for you, it’s going to be incredible!

    • Thank you so much Travis!! I’m still so blown away that you lived in Mongolia for four years — amazing that it brought you so much wisdom AND the love of your life 🙂 I can really sense the same thing . . . it’s such a good reminder of how I want to be and live even when I return to the states. So proud of you and excited for your year ahead too — very grateful to be in each other’s corners!!

      • Thank you Jenny, you are so sweet. I’m so proud to be in your corner. 🙂

  • Melani Dizon

    Love this Jenny and it makes it feel so possible. I would love to find a place like this, if not this, that would be fun and a great experience for my daughter as well. I have no intention of spending a month away from her (well not for another 10 years anyway:)) but I also don’t want to wait 10 years to do this trip either. This will be a fun one to research, although I think I could copy your exact trip and be happy as could be. I wonder how Dylan would feel after 30 days of yoga:)

    • Thank you so much Melani!! You and your daughter would absolutely love it in Ubud . . . there is so much to do and see, and the people are so incredibly friendly. After a week here, I already felt a huge weight lifted — I could just be myself and do what felt most rejuvenating. There would be so much for Dylan to see too, and they LOVE kids there! Bringing kids (of any age) into a restaurant brings celebration (as if a celebrity walked in) rather than the scorn we usually see in the states. Let me know if you have any questions if/when you start planning!! I bet Dylan would fall in love with yoga too — there were some kids in my classes about 9-12 years old, and I was so wishing I had started at their age 🙂 You’re amazing, thanks always for your awesome comments!!

  • Monica McCarthy

    Inspiring and informative at the same time… aka the usual awesomeness from Miss Blake:)

    • Thank you Mon Bon!! We are LONG overdue for an epic catch-up . . . I cannot wait to hear about all your fabulous travels too!!! MISS YOU!

  • Cheval John

    Congratulations, Jenny on your now one month ritual of living in Bali. That is really awesome. Happy New Year and wishing you the best for 2015.

    • Thank you Coeval, happy new year and all the best for 2015 as well!

      • Cheval John

        You are welcome, Jenny. Hope you had a safe flight back. Keep up the great work. Sorry for responding late. Very rude of me. Have a great week. And I hope I am not being rude, but loved to be called Cheval :))

        • My bad!! That was Safari’s crazy-fast auto-correct at work 🙂 Definitely meant to type Cheval!

          • Cheval John

            Good morning and no problem 🙂 How was the trip?

  • What a fabulous post, Jenny! Definitely bookmarking this for future reference 🙂 Thank you!

    • Thanks so much Jess! Glad you found it helpful, and can’t wait for you to visit someday 🙂

  • This is beautiful, and thank you for all the time and energy you put into writing these detailed, descriptive, USEFUL posts. I spent time in Bali and I want to go back — this is making me think about taking a month to go back there again.

    • Thank you so much SKP!! That means the world to me 🙂 Ahhhh, you totally should go back again for a month . . . it really is magical every time. Different, but gives you exactly what you need! Especially for those of us living in NYC/Brooklyn 🙂 Loved your end-of-year blog letter too! xoxo!

  • Great post! It definitely makes a trip to Bali seem possible, even a longer one. 🙂 Time to save up my PTO.

    • Thanks so much! YES, great plan . . . I know you would love it here 🙂

  • Love this and You!!

    • Thanks love!! Right back ‘atcha!! Love you to pieces!!

  • Tricia

    Thanks so much for sharing the details of your trip. I think seeing the financial side laid out so clearly will make people realize a trip such as yours is possible if you want it bad enough. Bali is very very high on my list. I definitely want to stay longer than a week, probably a few months. Being a seasonal worker, it is very doable for me. Do you have any suggestions for reasonably priced non-Vegas style beach towns?

    • Thanks for the kind words, Tricia! I loved Cenggu — beach town that’s pretty quiet and affordable — if you go there, check out the restaurants Betel Nut and Crate. I’ll let you know if I think of or hear of any others! You might also check out Lonely Planet (or buy their guide) — I’ve heard great things about the recs in there 🙂

  • Oh, I’m glad I came across this post! I’m actually looking into a yoga teacher training in Bali (near Ubud), but if I don’t end up doing the training there I would definitely want to visit it another time! Saving this post to refer back to. 😉

  • WOW! I am putting this on my bucket list. Thank you for all the wonderful details. You make it seem so doable. Much gratitude. 🙂

  • Wonderful post as always, Jenny! Now I’m tempted to put Bali on my travel bucket list. 🙂

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  • Georgia Lidzey-Watson

    Hey Jenny! Great post about Bali, I feel really inspired to start to month trip to Bali. I was wondering what the name of the hotel was in which you stayed at? Best, Georgia

  • Soraya Nicholls

    Thank you! This information is just perfect. Was it easy to find accommodation when you get to Ubud or do you recommend pre-booking beforehand?

    • I’m so thrilled to hear that Soraya! Yes, you can definitely find a homestay spot once you arrive (there are TONS in Ubud) but Ubud Aura (my favorite place to stay, right near Yoga Barn) does fill up in advance. If you want to book with them, I would email them a few months before your trip. Enjoy to the max!!

  • Gaurav Sharma

    This is brilliant information pack. Thank you! Although I have done Singapore, Bandung, Jakarta several times, always missed out on Bali. This post really inspires to do go-ahead.

  • I have been googling and found your blog! So helpful! I am in the process of saving up for a month’s stay in Bali and at first I wasn’t sure I could do it, but after reading so many blogs I am so excited to pursue it next quarter 🙂 Thanks for all the tips!

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  • Beverly

    I’m beginning to thank about spending January 2017 in Bali. Your post was extremely helpful. Ubud sounds wonderful, however I would love to be by the water. How far is Ubud from the water? Is there anyplace you could recommend on the water, that would have the “flavor” of Ubud? I am not interested in partying with the Aussies (nothing personal…those days are just way behind me!)
    Thanks!
    Beverly

  • Tash

    How did you find the weather in January? Is the wet season/ humidity bearable?

    • Hi Tash! Yes, very bearable – some days are quite hot and humid, and there are bursts of tropical rain – but I generally have a pretty low tolerance for hot weather and I adjusted pretty quickly. Enjoy your trip if/when you go!!

      • Tash

        So lovely to hear from you! I love your blog 🙂
        Thank you!

  • Hi Jenny! Thanks for all the info 🙂 Can you give me the name of the place you stay at? We booked our flights and are having a hard time deciding… thanks!

    • Hi Sarah! Sorry for the delayed reply; I stayed at Ubud Aura and highly recommend it! Have a great time on your trip 😀

  • Ramiro

    Jenny, what I wonderful post! I am doing this year. Going to Bali for a month. Can you please tell me what hotel you recommend And where to take yoga classes. Thanks so much for this. You are amazing!

    • Hi Ramiro! I stayed at Ubud Aura and highly recommend it! Have a great time on your trip 😀

  • Shannon Davis

    I am a american citizen and would like to stay for an extended period in Bali.
    Can I come in on a 30 day tourist visa and then exit and go back and forth from singapore at that point? how long do you have to stay outside of country before you can come back in?

    • Shannon Davis

      if this is possible should I book a one way ticket from the USA to DPS and then a outbound ticket from DPS to singapore or a RT ticket to DPS and back to states? which is cheaper option if I intend to stay in country indefinitely?

  • Shannon Davis

    When renting a house in Bali do I have to pay for a year in advance?

  • Kristin Moore

    Hi! Love your post. Question: A friend and I are going to Bali in late June/early July. We are looking for our 2nd place to stay for a long weekend. Where do you recommend knowing we are staying the first 8 days in Ubud?

    • Hi Kristin! I’d say Uluwatu (some great hotels along the water) Changi or Seminyak. Have a great time!!

      • Kristin Moore

        Thanks Jenny! So appreciate the advice! Blessings. I have been doing research on the Uluwatu area, seems the nicer places are on top of the cliff. Would love to stay closer down by the beach. There seems to be places built on the side of the cliff. Know of any recommendations?

  • Lauren Putri

    Hi Jenny! Your post is very helpful for someone who want to living in Bali.
    Just want to add a little more:
    If you are looking for a place for long term rent (weekly/monthly/yearly) you can check out http://www.balibudgethousing.com/ they are local site that list cheap Bali accommodation from houses, villas and apartment. or search in olx.co.id

    For massage there is cheap & good massage in Batu Belig for Rp 60,000 / hour ($5) named Bening Spa.